UN calls on Iraq to probe vote complaints

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Kurdish supporters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) celebrate after the closing of ballot boxes during the parliamentary election in Kirkuk, Iraq, on May 12, 2018. (REUTERS/Ako Rasheed)
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The head of Iraq's Independent Higher Election Commission Riyadh Al-Badran speaks during a news conference in Baghdad on May 16, 2018. (REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily)
Updated 18 May 2018

UN calls on Iraq to probe vote complaints

  • Partial results for the May 12 poll show the Marching Towards Reform alliance of Moqtada Sadr and communists ahead in six of Iraq’s 18 provinces and second in four.
  • Several complaints have been lodged in Kirkuk, a multiethnic province that the central government has recently taken over from the Kurds.

BAGHDAD: The UN on Thursday called for Iraq’s electoral commission to “immediately and fully” investigate complaints by candidates and parties over the conduct of this month’s legislative elections.

“The commission has to act expeditiously in order to seriously address all complaints,” the UN’s envoy to Iraq, Jan Kubis, said.

Partial results for the May 12 poll show the Marching Towards Reform alliance of Moqtada Sadr and communists ahead in six of Iraq’s 18 provinces and second in four.

Preliminary tallies also put the Conquest Alliance of pro-Iranian former paramilitary fighters who helped battle Daesh next, followed by incumbent Prime Minister Haider Abadi’s bloc. But the exact number of seats won by each bloc in Parliament is still unknown.

The UN cited partial recounts in some locations, including Kirkuk.

“It is important these are undertaken in full transparency, witnessed by stakeholders, to strengthen... confidence in the process,” said Kubis.

Several complaints have been lodged in Kirkuk, a multiethnic province that the central government has recently taken over from the Kurds.

Disputes between Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen communities led to a curfew being imposed in Kirkuk city on the night of the vote, with clashes and sit-in protests.

“I also call on all political actors to uphold the peace and to remain committed to resolving any electoral disputes through the established legal channels,” Kubis added.

Former Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, whose Rule of Law Alliance trails behind the top three blocs in the partial results, has called for the commission to recount votes or cancel the elections.

The vote, the first in Iraq since the government declared victory against the Daesh group in December, is also the first to have taken place without significant political violence since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.


UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

Updated 38 min 39 sec ago

UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

  • Libya is split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east
  • Libya’s prized light crude has long featured in the country’s civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves

GENEVA: The United Nations said Friday that the two sides in Libyan military talks had reached a “historic achievement” with a permanent cease-fire agreement across the war-torn North African country.
After mediation this week led by UN envoy for Libya Stephanie Turco Williams, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission reached what the UN called an “important turning point toward peace and stability in Libya.”
Details were not immediately available, but the two sides were taking part in a signing ceremony in Geneva on Friday morning.
Libya is split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east. The two sides are backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers. The country was plunged into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
“The road to a permanent cease-fire deal was often long and difficult,” Williams, a former US State Department official, said in Arabic at the signing ceremony.
“Before us is a lot of work in the coming days and weeks in order to implement the commitments of the agreement,” she said. “It is essential to continue work as quickly as possible in order to alleviate the many problems due to this conflict facing the Libyan people.”
“We have to give people hope of a better future,” Williams added. She expressed hope the agreement will succeed “in ending the suffering of Libyans and allowing those displaced by the conflict to return to their homes.”
Ali Abushahma, the head of the delegation and a field commander for the UN-supported administration in Tripoli, said: “We have had enough suffering, enough bloodshed ... We hope we will change the suffering on all the territories of Libya, especially in the south.”
“I appeal to all Libya: Be one hand,” he said, warning about polarization by factions.
The meetings this week mark the fourth round of talks involving the Joint Military Commission under Williams’ watch. The Geneva-based military talks come ahead of a political forum in Tunisia in November. That forum aims to “generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections,” the UN mission said.
On Wednesday, Williams had said the two warring factions agreed on issues that “directly impact the lives and welfare of the Libyan people,” citing agreements to open air and land routes in the country, to work to ease inflammatory rhetoric in Libyan media, and to help kickstart Libya’s vital oil industry.
Libya’s prized light crude has long featured in the country’s civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves.
Last month, the two sides reached preliminary agreements to exchange prisoners and open up air and land transit across the country’s divided territory. This breakthrough also accompanied the resumption of oil production after a months-long blockade by powerful tribes allied with military commander Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the eastern-based forces.
Haftar’s forces launched an offensive in April 2019 to try and capture Tripoli, the seat of the UN-supported government in the west. But his campaign collapsed in June.
Fighting has since died down amid international pressure on both sides to avert an attack on the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s major oil export terminals.